My (Short) Life as a Maid

When I was growing up in a small Nova Scotia town, there were very few summer jobs for a girl with no particular skills.  Babysitting was one of the ones I turned to to make a little extra money.

Between us, I think babysitting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Let me explain.

My first babysitting job was for our neighbour, Mary, who had 5 little girls.  She worked at the local cinema selling tickets.  Her husband would stay with the children in the evenings, but on Wednesday afternoons there was a matinée and I was volunteered by my mother to watch the little darlings.  They were great kids although child number four, a sweetheart named Patrice, was mentally challenged.  It made the job a little more difficult but it wasn’t too bad.

When Mary got home from work, I handed over the little girls and she handed me a quarter.  Yes, $0.25.  I was thrilled.  A quarter could buy a lot in those days in the 1950s.  I ran all the way home with the precious “pay” in my hand and excitedly told my mother about the quarter.  My Mom was shocked and told me that I had to RETURN the money to Mary as I couldn’t accept money for helping out a neighbour!  I can tell you I trudged up the hill to Mary’s house and handed over the quarter with a mumbled explanation that I really couldn’t accept the money.  I learned something about my mother that day.  I didn’t really need the money and Mary and her husband did.

For a few years I occasionally babysat for Mary and never accepted money for the job.  I really liked her and her children and was saddened when I was away at boarding school in my last year of high school when she died at the age of 29 during surgery to correct what was supposed to have been a minor heart defect.

In university, I babysat frequently, mostly for a family of 4 girls.  Their father was a professor at my university and he and his wife were great party goers.  I was there until the wee hours of many a Saturday night and was always paid the same amount – $2.00.  If I was there a couple of hours in the middle of the day, I got $2.00.  Four hours in the middle of the night?  $2.00.  One time I sat for a whole weekend while they went to a conference.  I remember that the youngest child was eating her carrots because I had told her to.  She didn’t speak for the rest of the day and in the evening when I went to help her brush her teeth, I found the carrots still in her mouth!

A little note.  I invited the parents of these little girls to my wedding and said to Mrs. W.,   ” I want to have 4 little girls just like you.”  And I did!

At the end of fourth year university I was asked to babysit another gaggle of kids, this time a family of 6 boys, whose father was my geology professor.  They went away for a few days and I remember that my pay that time was $20.00.  It was 1965 and I felt rich!

I must have done a good job because another professor’s wife called me because she wanted my to be her MAID for the summer.  I was to do ironing, light housework, and babysitting for her group of 5 kids.  The pay was good so I accepted the job, but asked for a day off the first week and was told, “No.”  She needed me because she had to attend the university graduation the next day with her husband.  I told her, “No.”  I also would be attending the university graduation the next day where I would be receiving my teaching degree.  I never went back to work as her maid.

It was a short career!